By Bridget Tunnicliffe (RNZ)

Stars' midcourter Gina Crampton says last year's brutal ANZ Premiership grand final is one game she just hasn't been able to watch.

The final was expected to be tight but the Pulse stunned the Stars 56-37 at TSB Arena in Wellington.

A few days prior to that the Stars had played a magnificent game to knock out the Mystics in the elimination final.

Unfortunately when the Pulse applied smothering defensive pressure from the first whistle, the Stars just couldn't play the netball that had got them to that final.

"Honestly it's probably the one netball game that I've played in that I haven't watched, I just have steered far clear of it, it's one of those games that you just want to forget about.

"We just sort of fell away from the start and we couldn't really put in to action our game plan, we don't want to let that happen again this year," Crampton said.

The Stars will meet the Pulse in this Sunday's elimination final, with the winner to meet the Mystics a week later in the grand final.

Stars' coach Kiri Wills believes tomorrow's do or die game will be close.

"I think we're in a much better position physically and mentally for this game than we were at the same time last year so I think the game is going to go very differently.

"I've just got back all of our strength and conditioning results and the girls are bigger, faster, stronger and mentally we're a lot more resilient than we were last year," Wills said.

Due to venue availability the game is being played at Porirua's Te Rauparaha Arena, which has a smaller seating capacity than TSB - that drew some of the most lively crowds this season.

"There's a little bit of 'yay we're not going back to that place that gives us all a bit of PTSD'. We joke about it but what I like about Te Rauparaha is it's quite intimate so it's a little less daunting, but that's not to say that we couldn't have done the job at TSB either."

Wills said dealing with the Pulse's defensive style would be key.

"Everybody talks about their physicality because they play more of a man to man style than anyone else in New Zealand, but we felt that it was really overt in that game and I felt like we were really unlucky.

"I think if a few calls that didn't go our way went our way we wouldn't have won the game, but it definitely changes momentum. I feel that the umpires this year have really taken control of that contact space a lot better than in previous years and they've been on it really quickly, not playing as much advantage. In saying that we're not going to rely on them to do the job for us."

Amorangi Malesala has emerged as the side's starting goal attack and has had a real impact.

"Her confidence on her shot - medium to long range is very impressive particularly in this competition where I think most of the shooters aren't shooting unless they are close to the post, with the exception of Ameliaranne Ekenasio so I think she adds a double threat to our shooting circle."

Crampton said consistent game time had done wonders for Malesala.

"Playing amongst that pressure and in those games throughout the whole year has just really elevated her performances. We've always known she can sink a shot from anywhere but she's doing that under immense pressure game in game out, which is awesome," Crampton said.

Wills said bringing experienced Australian coach Sue Hawkins in as a specialist had been invaluable.

Hawkins came over to New Zealand in the pre-season to work with the Stars' shooters and spent another week with the side earlier this month.

"She's also been doing a lot of video calls with the girls and it's a lot to do with their shot technique and a little bit to do with where they are running in and the space they're offering.

"Having a different voice in your environment can be good for the players, just having somebody else reinforce messaging and offer little new bits and pieces has been very much worth it."

Wills was impressed with how her defensive end had gone from strength to strength after the side lost the hugely experienced pair of Anna Harrison and Kayla Johnson.

Crampton said Elle Temu had done a great job taking the leadership role on, whether she was paired with Holly Fowler or Kelera Nawai-Caucau.

"I think the strength of our defensive end is that they work as a unit and they work for each other and Samon [Nathan] and Mila [Reuelu-Buchanan] out the front in WD and C are doing a whole lot of work for the defence behind them too."

Crampton said it was important that the players enjoyed the build up to the elimination final.

"That's when we play our best too so I think that's an important reminder. Especially for people that haven't played in finals series before, nothing that's happened previously matters, it's 60 minutes that you have to get through. I think enjoying it is a big part of our culture at the Stars and we want to put that out on Sunday."


2023-05-26T23:02:14Z dg43tfdfdgfd